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Port of Newcastle trade down $23 billion, diversity needed


Aluminium to Japan, coal to China, steel to Italy, wheat to Vietnam… figures released this week show when it comes to Australia’s international import-export industry, Port of Newcastle (PoN) is a $48 billion player. 

The number though, is a far cry from the $71 billion it boasts from yesteryear. 

In fact, the value of trade through Port of Newcastle fell by $23 billion from 2022 to 2023.

And, while a shift in weather and demand is being blamed for the poor trade results of 2023, the gateway’s top boss, CEO Craig Carmody, warns PoN must introduce a diversification of commodities to avoid similar losses in the future. 

“Overall, Port of Newcastle had an increase of almost 5% on total trade volume, which can be attributed to the return of China to the Australian coal market, representing a quarter of all coal exports,” he said. 

“The Port’s exposure to carrying volume risk is evident, put simply, if China did not lift their restrictions, the Port’s volumes would have been the lowest experienced in several years. 

“For Port of Newcastle and our region, we need to ensure we continue down our path of diversification.  

“Last year’s results highlight how we cannot continue to rely on a single commodity, we cannot wait and relive what occurred when the steel industry left Newcastle,” he said.

Port of Newcastle
Port of Newcastle CEO Craig Carmody signs the Memorandum of Understanding in May 2023.

Mr Carmody is warning of the risks associated with being reliant on a single commodity such as coal.

Growing trade across the region’s non-coal sources would ensure the port and region avoid huge losses should a specific industry face future challenges.

The trade losses come at a time Mr Carmody is pushing the need for the acceleration of diversification in areas such as container trade and the Clean Energy Precinct.

“2024 will be a year of consolidation and focus, one that focuses on expanding our existing container trade relationships, supporting wind and solar energy projects, along with development of the Clean Energy Precinct” he added.

Executive manager of business development Matthew Swan says reduced export volumes were a reflection of the challenges the overall market is facing.

“After three years of ideal harvest conditions for agribusiness, the shift to El Nino has had a direct impact on our farmers, with wheat exports down 34 percent to 1.7 million tonnes, with volumes subdued for CY2024,” he said. 

“It’s the first-time wheat has been under two million tonnes since 2021. 

“Meals and grain exports continued to perform well, with a 31% increase in volumes (629,006 tonnes), and mineral concentrates experienced modest growth, with a total 397,000 tonnes exported.”

Port of Newcastle Trade Results 2023

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